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Just over a century after the Klondike gold rush in Alaska helped Alden J. Blethen's fledgling Seattle Evening Times establish itself as the dominant newspaper in the Pacific Northwest, a gold rush of a different sort will force a fight to the death among Seattle's two daily newspapers.

Once a laid-back, Boeing company town, software companies adding ones and zeroes to the Puget Sound population have moved the pace of business in the area to the speed of an Internet IPO.

News travels in packets through the World Wide Web, and traffic crawls at the speed of a slug and the afternoon newspaper is a quaint luxury that no longer seems realistic.


It is no wonder then The Seattle Times Co. -- Mr. Blethen's heirs -- have decided to take on the heirs of his one-time nemesis, William Randolph Hearst.

The Evening Times will become the Morning Times in the early years of the new millennium, going head-to-head against the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, established in 1863 and currently owned by Hearst Corp.

The national trend is clearly against evening newspapers and the Times was the last dominant afternoon paper.

In a society where evening time is at a premium, few take the time to browse through the printed pages and, more importantly, the ads. Yet at least one major Times advertiser will miss having an evening paper.


"We particularly like having an evening newspaper, where our ads can bring in shoppers later in the day," says Gary Yiatchos, senior VP-marketing at retailer Bon March, the largest advertiser in both the Times and the P-I.

Even Mr. Yiatchos, however, can understand the trends that are driving the Times' decision to publish a morning paper. He says he applauds the skill and marketing ability of Times management in establishing the evening newspaper as the circulation leader.

As of Sept. 30, Monday through Saturday circulation for the Times is 227,715, vs. 196,271 for the P-I, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. The combined Sunday circulation is 504,259.

Mike Lemke, VP-advertising for Seattle Times Co., which is responsible for advertising, printing and circulation for both newspapers under its joint operating agreement, says more than 90% of advertisers now buy a combination of space in both papers.

At the same time, he points out, there is only a 3% duplication in circulation between the two newspapers.

Mr. Lemke says the Times has had "great support from our advertisers" in its preparation toward morning publication. Mr. Yiatchos says the key consideration for Bon March in managing advertising within eight newspapers throughout the Pacific Northwest region is "what is the reach?"

That reach includes not only the circulation numbers of the newspaper but also the demographics of the audience.


The Times and P-I obviously have the largest and most important reach in the territory that stretches from the Canadian border into Oregon. However, suburban newspapers are establishing turf in a ring around the primary King County circulation area.

When the morning competition opens in the metropolitan area, readers will have a choice of four morning papers, plus the Times and P-I.

Washington Post Co.'s Everett Herald dominates fast-growing, upscale Snohomish County to the north.

McClatchy Co.'s Tacoma News Tribune claims "all but 4%" of newspaper readers in its primary market in working class Pierce County to the south, according to John Kelly, ad director.

Full-scale competition, however, already is in the works among the Times, P-I, News-Tribune and Northwest Media's South County Journal for a fast-growing area of South King County, which includes the cities of Auburn, Federal Way and Kent.


The Times and P-I still dominate eastern King County, home to Microsoft Corp. and many high-tech offspring. But South County's sister publication, the East Side Journal, is staking its own claim to the territory.

Mr. Yiatchos says each of these areas has its own concerns when considering ad dollars spent on newspapers, and Bon March does not necessarily make an "either/or" decision based on who is winning a circulation war.

Both the (Everett) Herald and the (Tacoma) News Tribune started out as evening newspapers and converted to morning publication during this decade for many of the same reasons that forced the Times' hand. The key factor has been Puget Sound's steady growth in traffic congestion.

The Times noted that to serve evening readers in South King County, the company would have to invest in an additional printing plant. That reality, more than anything else, prompted the two newspapers to reconsider the terms of the JOA.

At the time of the announcement, Publisher Frank Blethen said the process would happen within two years.

Mr. Lemke noted the Times may have "some indication of its timetable by May."

Mr. Kelly says, however, that chances are the plans are already "clearly outlined in someone's safe," much as his own newspaper went through some of the same adjustments when it went to morning publication a decade ago.

Larry Hanson, publisher of the Herald (which began morning publication in 1991), says the process is an extensive challenge, calling for readership and advertiser studies in advance.

"It changes the entire operation of a newspaper, from a normal day operation to a 24-hour operation," he says.


Under the terms of the JOA, only the Times and P-I newsrooms operate separately.

Mr. Lemke says he expects the financial operations will continue much as they are today. Mr. Lemke discounts a wide-felt suspicion that one of the two newspapers will eventually cease publication, noting advertising sales teams will continue to push its successful combination sales strategy.

Still, outside the P-I newsroom, there is concern only one paper can survive under the revised JOA terms.

Mr. Yiatchos agrees. "I suspect that when this is over, there will only be one

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